Nora Ephron’s cookbook crushes

When you make a recipe from a cookbook, do you imagine the book’s author speaking to you through the instructions? If so, do you ever ask the author questions in your head? If you’ve ever had imaginary discussions with an author while cooking, you should definitely read the late Nora Ephron’s 2006 article in The New Yorker describing her cookbook crushes. You should read this article even if you haven’t had such discussions, because after reading you just might start. 

cookbook collage

Ephron describes how she has moved from cookbook to cookbook in the course of her culinary career, starting with The Gourmet Cookbook and continuing through a series of volumes by esteemed authors like Craig Claiborne, Michael Field, Julia Child, and Nigella Lawson. As Ephron moves from one chapter of her life to another, she’s accompanied by a cookbook, and her imaginary conversations with the book’s authors guide her along the way. 

Unlike the rest of us, Ephron actually gets to meet and have real conversations with luminaries like Craig Claiborne and Lee Bailey. However, this does not stop her from continuing the imaginary conversations. “As I conducted my inner conversations with Lee-about what to serve, or what would be the perfect fourth thing to accompany what I was serving-it never occurred to me to pick up the phone and ask him,” writes Ephron. “Lee was much too easygoing; he would have just laughed and said, “Anything you feel like, honey.” He was, in his way, as close to a Zen master as I’ve ever had.” 

Reading this piece made me realize how much we have lost in recent years with the passing of many legendary food writers (even though Ephron isn’t foremost a food writer, I include her in this category). I am thankful that we have access to their works via the internet, so that we can go back and remember the fine things they have contributed. 

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